Last week we had our monthly team strategy meeting. We have one of these every month (well duh!) and they are designed to be a transparent and honest overview of the companies successes, wins, losses, challenges and financial situation. This one was slightly different to the ones that came before it though. This time we finished the meeting by having a round-robin sesh where each team member, in turn, got the opportunity to put forward ideas of how to evolve the company. This led to a brilliantly energetic brain-dump of ideas like the possible formation of an R&D sister company (but that’s another story for another time). Another was to definitively explore and find the answer to this question:
‘Do we, GGA, actually need a permanent office to work from?’
It’s may seem a strange thing to say but I think for some time the whole team (there’s 5 of us) have had the same sneaking suspicion that our offices are a bit redundant. Like most businesses, rent and business rates are our biggest outgoings after wages – so what if we can simply remove that expense?
As any company who actively do remote working will tell you, the biggest block to it happening is convincing the management that it’s a good idea… luckily our MD Paul is also 100% on the same page as the rest of the GGA team – WIN!
“After all”, we reasoned “GGA are advocates of lean working practices so why shouldn’t we use those methodologies when looking at every part of our daily business – not just the production side of things?”
And with that, we went about listing all the things that would theoretically stop us becoming a remote working company. Turns out there wasn’t a single one!
We’re a web and mobile applications development team and, as it turns out, we’re already 95% geared up to working remotely. In the office we use the following tools daily:
Basecamp – for collaborative project comms with clients
Trello – we’ve adapted boards to work with our Scrum/Sprint setup. We’ve also plugged it into a dashing.io dashboard so the whole team can see the Sprint burndown and production progress in real time.
Bitbucket – for dev/code hosting
Slack – my personal favourite tool for our internal comms
Digital Ocean – the best cloud-based server setup going IMHO
Google Drive/Docs – for admin creation and storage
Nothing there that needs the team to actually be in the same physical space right? So thats the majority of the things we need already sorted. Then of course there’s our developers coding machines and dev environments but, like all good coders, they’re all already setup for home working anyway. Our designer, Ollie, would have to take his iMac home with him, but judging by the grin on his face, I don’t reckon that’s gonna be a major hardship on him!
The only things we can see that would need a bit of prep if we did decide to become permanently remote, are the removal of a few internal dev tools that are currently sat on a physical server in the office. These are locked down to IP access but can easily be migrated to a few new Digital Ocean droplets for a few quid a month. Simple!
So that leads us to where we are now…
Since the strategy meeting last Thursday we’ve decided to trial remote working from today (Tuesday 29/07/14) until this Friday, when we’ll all head back to the office and have a retro about our experiences.
Before I wrote this (from the comfort of my favourite sofa corner) we had our first morning standup to discuss the days production schedule. We did this using Google Hangouts and, quite frankly, it was great. I’ve personally used one-on-one hangouts before now but this was my first ‘group’ experience (oh grow up! Stop sniggering!) and I think Hangouts are the one thing Google+ has got very right indeed!
The other hero of the story is Slack – we’ve tried loads of internal communication tools before but Slack’s blend of easy-to-use chat channels, direct messaging and integration with other tools means it towers above the competition.
So 3 hours in to remote working and we’re all feeling pretty confident that this will become our new, standard way of working. I’ll write another blog on Thursday about how this little 3-day experiment has gone, but right now… it feels right.